By David Rasbach / The Bellingham Herald
Workers in Washington state suffered 78 fatal work injuries in 2016, up eight deaths from 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.
According to the report, the transportation industry was the most dangerous in the state with the greatest number of fatalities, but the farming, fishing and forestry segment actually had a higher fatality rate.
Nationwide, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries in 2016 — a seven-percent increase from the 4,836 in 2015, according to results from the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program.
Despite the increase in 2016, Washington remained one of the safest states to work in. The state’s fatal injury rate — which is determined by dividing the number of fatal work injuries by the total number of hours worked by all employees in a year and multiplying by 200 million (the base for 100,000 equivalent full-time workers) — was 2.4, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That ranked the Evergreen State fifth safest behind the District of Columbia (1.4), Connecticut (1.6) Rhode Island (1.8) and California (2.2) and tied with New Jersey, Maine and Hawaii. Alaska (10.6) and Wyoming (12.3) were the only states with double-digit fatal injury rates.
The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector had the highest fatality rate in Washington at 14.5. Construction had a rate of 7.5 and transportation and utilities checked in at 6.1, while financial activities had a 3.2 rate, professional and business services was at 1.7 and wholesale and retail trade’s rate was 1.3.
The state’s occupations with the most work-related deaths in 2016 were: transportation and material moving (18 deaths); construction and extraction (14 deaths); farming, fishing and forestry (10 deaths); sales and related (six deaths); and building and grounds cleaning and management (five deaths). Eleven of the 18 transportation deaths were heavy equipment and tractor-trailer operators.
Transportation incidents resulted in 27 deaths, or about 35 percent of the total number in the state — just behind the 40 percent national average. Falls and slips, meanwhile accounted for 24 fatalities in the state, or about 31 percent — nearly twice the national mark (16). Violence and other injuries caused by persons or animals accounted for 13 deaths in the state, while contact with objects and equipment resulted in eight deaths and exposure to harmful substances or environments caused three deaths.
Other notable statistics from the release:
• Men accounted for 90 percent of the work-related deaths in Washington — the national mark was 93 percent.
• Nearly a quarter of the work-related deaths in the state (24 percent) occurred to somebody who was self employed.
More than half the state’s work-related fatalities occurred in King (15), Snohomish (nine), Yakima (seven) and Pierce (five) counties.